Stumbling Back to Myself

I guess 40 is as good an age as any to reflect upon ourselves. It seems that so many of my peers are going through Really Big Things now. There are deaths, and losses, and breakups and challenges, and big moves, and. . . It suddenly really hit home that the years are flying by and it’s time to buckle down and git ‘er dun, if you know what I mean. Like the night before that big exam, it’s time to focus.

When I became a parent, I tried to live up to some fabricated vision of “Mother” I had created. I told myself I must not be the crazy, fun-loving, perhaps too-wild version of myself I had been for so long. I bid my vices adieu, I reigned in my eccentricities, I became the sober judge. I set my dreams aside. Now, nearly ten years after finding myself staring at a positive pregnancy test, I want to shake it all off like a dog after a bath. I want every last piece of that strange, uncomfortable version of myself to dissipate.

I looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize myself anymore. All I saw was a boring version of myself, tired, dulled down, and worn thin. Sure, having young kids takes its toll, that much is true, but somewhere along the way I felt like I lost myself completely. So I suppose when I started making seemingly selfish decisions leading up to my 40th birthday, to the outside world it may seem a little midlife crisis-ish. Maybe it is.

But see, I’ve been working for so long to make others happy, I realize I forgot to put my own oxygen mask on first. I isolated myself and downplayed my desires to ensure I’d always be here for the people I love most in the world, but now, a decade later, I realize I need to be myself in order to help them be themselves, too.

I’m stumbling back to myself, and I’m so happy to find my old self patiently waiting.

We bought the car I wanted this year, good sense and parenting needs be damned. I go out with my friends more. I go out with my husband more. I’m practicing to say yes to the things that scare me, and no to the things that bring me down. I have done things I was always too scared to do — like taking part in Mudderella, and the Warrior Dash. Like flying to freaking Zurich (alone!) to speak at a conference. Like speaking up and standing up for myself. Putting myself out there has done wonders for my self-esteem.

Stumbling back to myself at 40.I spent a lot of time watching other people, listening to them, and taking their advice about how the world works, and how I should live my life. It felt like I took a backseat and let those with the loudest voices take the wheel.

What would that person think if I did this? What will this person think if I say that? How can I make that person proud? Why doesn’t that one like me? I should follow their rules.

And when it comes down to it, I’ve decided they’re all wrong and so was I. None of that really matters. That’s not to say I haven’t realized my mistakes — trust me, I’m still working on myself. Balancing my own thoughts with the feelings of others is probably going to remain a challenge, but hey, when we stop improving we stop living, right?

At the very least, the way their world works doesn’t have to be the way mine does. I constantly preach that you gotta be you, that it’s important for my kids to be themselves, carve their own paths, make their dreams come true their way — and here I was looking to others, letting others be the gatekeepers to reaching my goals.

No more.

I make the rules for me.
I am in control of my life.
I get to choose what I do, and how I do it.
It’s up to me to be the best me I can be for my family.
I’ll live right now.
I’ll write now.

Here's my new tattoo. What do you think of it?
Here’s my new tattoo. The ellipsis is there to represent my three babies — Story, our lost baby Marshmallow, and Mason. I hope it reminds me to live right now, and to never give up on writing.
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8 thoughts on “Stumbling Back to Myself

  1. This is amazing Alex, I’m in the process of doing the same thing. It can be scary & uncomfortable, but also amazing and rewarding. You got this <3

  2. Excellent post. I have felt “lost” for a long time. I suspect that feeling comes from becoming a mom so young that I didn’t know who I was yet. Then I kept on having babies and there’s no time for “me”, whomever she is. I still don’t know. I don’t have any hobbies. All the stuff that I often think is me turns out to be everyone else too.

    1. I think it’s really hard to maintain ourselves when we have kids, responsibilities, etc. Nobody really teaches us how to grow up past a certain age, and I felt like I was sort of wandering all over, unsure of who to be when I grew up. And now, here I am all grown up, trying to figure it out still. It’s ok that the things you think are you, are also other people. Keep trying things out. I think you’ll find you, too. 🙂

  3. I love this post as much as I love your new tattoo. I’ve been watching you from the sidelines lately, Alex, and I am so freaking proud of what you are doing and how you are showing your true self to yourself. xo

  4. This is really wonderful!

    Have you stopped for a minute to think of all the awesome you have been a part of, say, in the last year or two? It’s pretty amazing!

    GO you!

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